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Cofield adds that the importance of mobile devices can’t be overstated. Though it’s not clear whether people would watch feature-length films on small screens, he believes Netflix may want to focus on mobile support for streaming shorter content such as television shows.

Besides adding new features, Netflix may also have to solve some existing technical problems. “As people pay more money for premium content, consumers will expect more quality,” says Hui Zhang, cofounder and chief scientist of Conviva, a company that optimizes and personalizes live video streams. Today’s consumers are accustomed to smooth delivery of HD television content through cable networks, and Zhang says it’s difficult to provide the same level of service over the Internet. Though customers may forgive occasional hiccups, the coming increase in Netflix’s prices may make them less forgiving. Netflix and other streaming-video companies will have to deal with growing loads on the network and unpredictable network conditions, he says, adding, “Online video will be a very software-intensive business.”

Though consumers might well enjoy such improvements to streaming service, today they are criticizing Netflix for breaking something that was working well. In the online comments on Hastings’s post, customers complain particularly about being forced to maintain accounts on two different sites and about having to pay attention to how they want to watch a movie rather than simply deciding which movie they want to watch.

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Tagged: Computing, Web, business, media, Netflix, streaming data, movies, internet video, social TV

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